Family meetings are really fun for me. On my last meeting with the whole family, my ninety-two-year-old grandmother finally admitted, “I just don’t understand this job of yours.”
This lead to several other questions including one that I’m asked quite frequently, how do I get clients? Here are some of my tips on how to find and land clients for your business as a designer.
Word of Mouth
Customer service is the number one most important thing when freelancing, your reputation is based off it. A happy client is a client that will be dropping your name every chance they get.
Don’t be ashamed to plug yourself. When I first started out I thought plugging myself at every possible chance would make me sound desperate, too desperate. Then I quickly learned that plugging myself meant eating soup rather than soup can labels. There are certainly tactical ways of going about that spare you an aura of desperation and make you sound more like a good contact to have. Make them ask you what you do. You can accomplish this by asking what line of work they’re in, then follow that up with questions about their online presence.
Volunteer your time and expertise to help out a non-profit or volunteer organization. These types of organizations have no quarrels with plugging your name and recommending you to anyone they can. It also looks great on a resume to be able to say you’ve done some volunteer work.
A personal recommendation will almost always hold the most weight, that’s why it’s important to have as big of a network as possible. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn make this a piece of cake. They allow you to deliver your work to the masses and interact with prospective clients.
Tradeshows are another great place to expand your network and find a niche where you can really make a name for yourself. Attend tradeshows of things you consider to be your hobbies or things that interest you and chat up some of the vendors. The fact that you’re already knowledgeable on the subject will make conversation flow easily and give you an advantage over a larger design firm who doesn’t know anything about that field. You could even plan ahead and check out the sites of some smaller vendors and talk to ones whose sites you could work miracles on.
Get Your Name Out
Getting your name out plays in with word of mouth and networking, but what if you don’t live close to a major city? Businesses are few and far between (and probably don’t have a large budget to spend on a website) and the closes tradeshow is hundreds of miles away. You can easily get past all that by taking to the web.
Contact a few blogs that you have bookmarked and visited frequently. Offer to write an article in exchange for providing a link back to your site in your bio. Not only will that help get your name out, but the link back will help boost the SEO of your website as well.
If you only know how to write code or are having a severe bout of writers’ block, stick with what you know and showcase your talent by developing a free WordPress or Joomla template, or even an HTML template for that matter.
When ever you work with a retail client ask if you can leave some business cards on the counter of the reception desk. Or kick it up a notch by having some pens made with your name, contact info, and what you do, then leave those on the counter. Scour your local grocery store for a bulletin board and leave a card or some sort of promotional flyer there.
At the very least you can be active in some web forums and online communities. Find places where people are seeking advice in your area of expertise and offer struggling members some advice. Comment on blogs in areas you know about, or if there’s an inspirational roundup of sites and you feel yours fits in to drop a link and suggest people check it out.
A brainless and extremely passive way to do this is to include all of your contact information, complete with a link back to your site, in the signature of your emails. Every time you send an email that info is there for who ever is reading it, whether they’re a client, friend, acquaintance, doctor, student, or what ever. It never hurts. Links back to your site on the websites you’ve developed is another similar method.
If times are slow and you’re hungry for work as well as just plain hungry, work the phone and email contacts. Look at businesses in your local area and check to see if they have a website and if they do is it useful or can you improve it? When I first started I was afraid to tell someone their site was an eyesore. Granted I never would have used that description, nor do I recommend you do, but you would be surprised at how thankful those people are when you offer your services. More often than not they’re too busy doing what they do, just wanted some kind of web presence, and gave it their best attempt. And when prompted will admit they didn’t know what they were doing nor did they have the time to find a reasonably priced professional.
Give your current clients a courtesy call and see if there’s anything you can do for them. Suggest an upgrade to their site with some fancy new trick you’ve learned, or tell them about some cool feature you saw on their competitor’s site and assure them you could develop something even better. See if they want to have some ads or business cards made up.
It’s the scouts’ motto, but if you’re not prepared then you’re probably not going to seal the deal. Finding yourself in a conversation with a prospective client and then not being able to hand over your business card or send a link to your online portfolio is a swing and a miss.
When meeting with a prospective client it’s always nice to have little gems that you’re able to drop to help them build confidence in you. Imagine you’re in a meeting with a prospective client and they ask what you know about responsive web design. It’s one thing to say, “I’ve read an article on it.” Chances are so they did, that’s why they’ve heard about it and are asking to see how much you know about it. Now imagine the same scenario but being able to reply, “Actually, I just had an article published on responsive web design.” Checkmate.
About the author: with over ten years in the freelance web design and writing fields, Scott Stanton has had his finger on the beating pulse of the industry’s hottest design trends and bends for the past decade. Scott regularly writes for Wix.com the free website builder. Follow him on Twitter @TheScottStanton.